Lower back pain can be a debilitating and painful condition. Fortunately, staying physically active may be the most effective and cost-efficient way to soothe or prevent it. Here are 8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain.
Lower back pain affects up to 80% of all people at one time or another. Although its origin varies, changes in the lumbar, or lower back, structure due to musculoskeletal damage are considered to be the main cause . Your musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that provide form, support, stability, and movement to your body.
Other muscles that play an important role in maintaining the normal curvature of your spinal column are reported to be associated with lower back pain. These include the hip flexor and hamstring muscles. Minor lower back pain normally gets better on its own within a few days or weeks. It can be considered chronic when it persists for more than three months. In either case, staying physically active and regularly stretching can help reduce lower back pain or prevent it from returning. The remainder of this article provides eight stretches for lower back pain, all of which you can do in the comfort of your own home with minimal or no equipment.
The knee-to-chest stretch can help lengthen your lower back, relieving tension and pain.
To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Using both hands, grab hold of your right lower leg and interlace your fingers, or clasp your wrists just under the knee.
While keeping your left foot flat on the floor, gently pull your right knee up to your chest until you feel a slight stretch in your lower back.
Hold your right knee against your chest for 30–60 seconds, making sure to relax your legs, hips, and lower back.
Release your right knee and return to the starting position.
Repeat steps 2–4 with your left leg.
Repeat three times for each leg.
To make this stretch more difficult, simultaneously bring both of your knees to your chest for 15–20 seconds. Do this 3 times, separated by 30 seconds of rest.
SUMMARY: Perform the knee-to-chest stretch by lying on your back and pulling and then holding one or both knees to your chest.
2. Trunk rotation
The trunk rotation stretch can help relieve tension in your lower back. It also works your core muscles, including your abdominals, back muscles, and the muscles around your pelvis.
To perform the trunk rotation stretch:
Lie on your back and bring your knees up toward your chest so your body is positioned as if you’re sitting in a chair.
Fully extend your arms out to the sides, with your palms face-down on the floor.
Keeping your knees together and hands on the floor, gently roll both bent knees over to your right side and hold for 15–20 seconds.
Return to the starting position and repeat step 3 on your left side, again holding for 15–20 seconds.
Repeat 5–10 times on each side.
SUMMARY: Perform the trunk rotation stretch by keeping your knees together up toward your chest, gently rolling your knees to each side, and holding the position.
3. Cat-cow stretch
The cat-cow stretch is a useful exercise to help increase flexibility and ease tension in your lower back and core muscles.
To perform the cat-cow stretch:
Get onto your hands and knees with your knees hip-width apart. This is the starting position.
Arch your back by pulling your belly button up toward your spine, letting your head drop forward. This is the cat portion of the stretch.
Hold for 5–10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your lower back.
Return to the starting position.
Raise your head up and let your pelvis fall forward, curving your back down toward the floor. This is the cow portion of the stretch.
Hold for 5–10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
Repeat the cat-cow stretch 15–20 times.
You can also perform this exercise in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees, making it perfect for sneaking in a few stretches at work.
SUMMARY: Perform the cat-cow stretch by arching your back for the cat pose, then letting your pelvis fall forward for the cow pose.
4. Pelvic tilt
The pelvic tilt exercise is a simple yet effective way to release tight back muscles and maintain their flexibility.
To perform the pelvic tilt:
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat, and arms by your sides. The natural curvature of your spine will lift your lower back slightly off the floor.
Gently arch your lower back and push your stomach out, stabilizing your core.
Hold for 5–10 seconds, then relax.
Push your pelvis slightly up toward the ceiling (your pelvis should not leave the floor) while tightening your abdominal and buttock muscles. In doing so, you should feel your lower back pressing into the floor.
Hold for 5–10 seconds, then relax.
Start with 10–15 repetitions daily, building up to 25–30.
SUMMARY: Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and tilting your pelvis toward the ceiling.
5. Seat forward bend
Tight hamstrings — the muscles located at the back of your thighs — are thought to be a common contributor to lower back pain and injuries (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
The seat forward bend stretches the hamstring muscles to relieve tightness and release tension in your spine.
To perform the seat forward bend:
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
Hook a standard bath towel around the bottoms of your feet at the heels.
Gently bend forward at your hips, bringing your belly down to your thighs.
Keeping your back straight, grab the towel to help you bring your belly closer to your legs.
Stretch until you feel mild tension in the back of your legs and lower back.
Hold for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
You can increase or decrease the tension of this stretch by grabbing the towel closer or farther from your feet.
As you become more flexible over time, you can increase how long you hold the stretch, or reduce the time between stretches.
SUMMARY: While seated on the floor with your legs extended, hook a towel around the bottom of your heels and use it to pull yourself forward and stretch your hamstring and lower back muscles.
6. Flexion rotation
The flexion rotation exercise helps stretch your lower back and buttocks.
To perform the flexion rotation exercise:
Lie on your right side with both legs straight.
Bend your left leg, hooking your foot behind your right knee.
Grasp your left knee with your right arm.
Place your left hand behind your neck.
Slowly rotate your upper body backwards by touching your left shoulder blade to the floor. You should feel a mild stretch in your lower back.
Repeat the rotation stretch 10 times, holding each stretch for 1–3 seconds before slowly moving out of the rotation.
Repeat steps 1–6 on your left side.
SUMMARY: With your leg bent and foot hooked around your other knee, slowly rotate your upper body backwards by touching your shoulder blade to the floor until you feel a mild stretch in your lower back.
7. Supported bridge
Use a foam roller or firm cushion to perform the supported bridge. It helps decompress your lower back through supported elevation.
To perform the supported bridge:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Lift your hips and place a foam roller or firm cushion underneath them.
Completely relax your body into the support of the floor and the foam roller or firm cushion.
Hold for 30–60 seconds and repeat 3–5 times, resting 30–60 seconds between sets.
You can increase the stretch in your lower back by extending one or both legs from their bent position.
SUMMARY: After positioning a foam roller or firm pillow underneath your hips, relax your entire body.
8. Belly flops
Similarly to the supported bridge exercise, the belly flop exercise uses a rolled towel to decompress your lower back through supported elevation.
To perform the belly flop:
Roll up a towel or blanket lengthwise and place it horizontally in front of you.
Lie front-side down over the towel or blanket so that your hip bones are pressing into it.
Completely relax your body. You can turn your head to either side.
Stay in this position for 1–2 minutes and repeat 1–3 times, resting 30–60 seconds between sets.
SUMMARY: Lie front-side down on a rolled-up towel or blanket that’s positioned under your hip bones and relax your entire body.